Click this link to hear an audio version of the below text narrated by SOTH member Jerry Rhinehart: https://sothrichfield.podbean.com
Acts 15:22-36 (NIV)
The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers
22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them, they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings. 24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.
30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. 32 Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. 34 But it seemed good to Silas to remain there. 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord. 36 Sometime later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.”
What is your relationship like with believers in different churches?
Lord, You are a God of love and unity. Your Word is timeless and has a unique quality to speak directly to people’s hearts. You created diversity in people so that not all hearts respond in the same way to the same things. Although Your Word is true, how we worship may be different. You are the one and only God who created us in Your image and gave Your only begotten son to forgive our sins and give us eternal salvation with You. Over time people have picked out pieces of Your Word and have become passionate about their interpretation of those pieces. These different interpretations have created conflict, division, and different flavors of Christianity. The reality is that sometimes even Christian partnerships struggle and fail and go their separate ways. This passage shows that You continued to bless people who love You despite alternate ways they may go about it. You continue to give us hope that in eternity all who love You will be joined back together in unity to worship You. Help us to keep that eternal focus when there are differences of opinions on lesser things and keep us unified in You. Guard our friendships and relationships. When there is a fallout, help us to always seek reconciliation and remember that, as Martin Luther King said, ‘Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.’ Let our attitude be that of love. Amen